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Column: Affordable Health Care

A friend of mine of moderate political persuasion said to me recently that while he felt that details of managing the federal Affordable Health Care Act were issues of governance that should continue to be debated and improved, he also felt that passage of the Act was a moral issue that should not be reversed. As a New York Times columnist Paul Krugman stated last month (The Real Winners, June 29, 2012), "So the law that the Supreme Court upheld is an act of human decency that is also fiscally responsible. It’s not perfect, by a long shot – it is, after all, originally a Republican plan, devised long ago as a way to forestall the obvious alternatives of extending Medicare to everyone…And there will be a long struggle to make it better, just as there was for Social Security…But it’s still a big step toward a better – and by that I mean morally better – society."

Despite the rapidly broadening positive opinion of the morality of the Affordable Care Act, there continues to be acts on the part of legislators to do in its provisions. Less than two weeks ago Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Act. That is the 33rd such vote against ensuring that residents of the richest nation on earth would have access to affordable health care, that their pre-existing conditions be covered, and that insurance not be subject to cancellation.

Equally as concerning as those who would repeal the Act are those who would drag their feet on its implementation. Some who oppose the Act want to wait until the November election to see if the President can be defeated and if Congress can be changed in the Senate to repeal the Act. I am urging Governor McDonnell to call a special session of the General Assembly to set up an insurance exchange and to expand Medicaid. The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis found in its study that expansion of Medicaid in Virginia would be a lifesaver for hundreds of thousands of Virginians, a real bargain for the Commonwealth, and a much needed boost to Virginia’s economy. According to the Congressional Budget Office, expansion of Medicaid will actually reduce state and local government costs for uncompensated care that is already provided to the uninsured. The Urban Institute estimates that overall state savings in the areas of uncompensated care would be between $26 and $52 billion from 2014 to 2020.

Already the Affordable Care Act that is referred to in the political arena as Obamacare has already helped those Virginians who are among the 17 million children nationally with pre-existing conditions who can no longer be denied coverage by insurance, the 6.8 million young adults up to age 26 who have taken advantage of the law to obtain health insurance through their parents’ plan, and the 86 million Americans, including 32 million seniors in Medicare, who have already received free preventative services. Now it is time to finish the job in Virginia. As the New York Times editorial expressed it, "For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society."